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Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture [Hardcover]

Ian Cobain
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
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Book Description

1 Nov 2012
The official line is clear: the UK does not 'participate in, solicit, encourage or condone' torture. And yet, the evidence is irrefutable: when it comes to dealing with potential threats to our national security, the gloves always come off. As the enquiries into the on-going abuse of terror suspects uncover an ever more sinister and unpalatable chain of complicity - going right to the top of government - it is time to re-examine the assumption that the British don't 'do' torture. Drawing on previously unseen official documents, and the accounts of witnesses, victims and experts, prize-winning investigative journalist Ian Cobain looks beyond the cover-ups and the attempts to dismiss brutality as the work of a few rogue interrogators, to reveal a secret and shocking record of torture. From WWII to the War on Terror, via Kenya and Northern Ireland, Cruel Britannia shows how the British have repeatedly and systematically resorted to torture, turning a blind eye where necessary, bending the law where they can, and issuing categorical denials all the while. What emerges is a picture of Britain that challenges our complacency on human rights and exposes the lie behind our reputation for fair play.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (1 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846273331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846273339
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 159,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

In one of the most shocking and persuasive books of the year, Cobain details not just British complicity in torture, but the longstanding practice of the thing itself, and the lies British politicians have always told, and are still telling, to cover it up. --David Hare

I found Cruel Britannia utterly gripping. Ian Cobain's writing has poise and measure, allowing space for these horrific truths to seep in, under the skin. I will not forget what I have learnt from this book, and I will be telling others about it for years to come. --P J Harvey

I am not prone to gasp and nor would I describe myself as naive. But the scale of torture in the British security services, as revealed by Ian Cobain in this admirably researched book, took me aback... Absorbing and devastating - Observer

Cobain's account is a reminder of why the default assumption, for every journalist dealing with authority, must be: Why is this liar lying to me? ? For the reader, it is a reminder of why we need journalist. As this quietly reported history of torture shows, Cobain is a fine one - Sunday Times

From the London Cage a secret World War II interrogation centre through to the Cold War, the Troubles and the death of Baha Mousa in Iraq, what d been done under the aegis of the British state will shock anyone who cherishes civilised values - --Metro

A deeply disturbing book which implicates both the British Government and the Security Services. It is like rolling a hand grenade into the heart of the Establishment. --Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer

I am not prone to gasp and nor would I describe myself as naive. But the scale of torture in the British security services, as revealed by Ian Cobain in this admirably researched book, took me aback... Absorbing and devastating - Observer

Cobain's account is a reminder of why the default assumption, for every journalist dealing with authority, must be: Why is this liar lying to me? ? For the reader, it is a reminder of why we need journalist. As this quietly reported history of torture shows, Cobain is a fine one - Sunday Times

From the London Cage a secret World War II interrogation centre through to the Cold War, the Troubles and the death of Baha Mousa in Iraq, what d been done under the aegis of the British state will shock anyone who cherishes civilised values - --Metro

A deeply disturbing book which implicates both the British Government and the Security Services. It is like rolling a hand grenade into the heart of the Establishment. --Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer

About the Author

IAN COBAIN was born in Liverpool in 1960. He has been a journalist since the early 1980s and is currently an investigative reporter with the Guardian. His inquiries into the UK's involvement in torture since 9/11 have won a number of major awards, including the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism. He has also won several Amnesty International media awards. Cobain lives in London with his wife and two children. This is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We do not do torture! 27 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ian Cobain's book is well written and confirms his assertions on British torture with cross references and Freedom of Information data. This book is a must for the open minded reader.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating & brutal insight 21 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although the topic is nothing new, the book gives the reader a more in depth explanation of how the corrupt & double dealing establishment of this country work.

Perhaps if more people read the book they would realise that other countries regimes are merely copying us & not being the so called demonised savage that we are lead to believe.

An excellent read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An extremely well researched work revealing the dark side of the "civilised west" as it carries out its twenty first century war on terror. Ian Cobain reveals, in a balanced and therefore credible manner,that Britain and America, together with some of its allies in a range of foreign countries, are using medieval and prolonged torture methods which we all thought had been left behind in the in the dark ages.
Illegal rendition seems an almost weekly occurrence
It is essential for the west to win the hearts and minds of its enemies, real or perceived, and to do so they must retain the moral high ground.
However, to engage in savage torture as a means of extracting "intelligence" creates more embittered enemies and deepens the hatred for the west.
This book should be compulsory reading for all politicians, intelligence and military officers as it opens a window into which we can disappointingly see that Britain is not the country of fair play we all thought it was and only foreigners engage in foul, underhand tactics.
Overall, a fascinating read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing Read 28 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Cruel Britannia is one of the most disturbing books I have read. It catalogues the abuse by British interrogators during the Second World War, the Cold War, the colonial period, scientific advances, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and rendition where British subjects were kidnapped, taken to a third country and tortured.It also exmines the cover ups by both major political parties over the last 75 years to ensure that this practice could continue in defiance of the Geneva Convention and the European Court of Human Rights. It is uncomfortable reading especially when the excuse given is that "It's for our own good!" Not in my name it's not and I write as an ex soldier who took part in some of these conflicts.
The perpetrators should be tried as war criminals.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought on a whim - but glad I did 15 April 2013
By James TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Absolutely fascinating and well researched book.
Overview would be - "erm, yes we do torture and always have" - and here are some references if you don't believe me.

Part I particularly liked was the way the book was structured, with chronological chapters devoted to particular conflicts and the successive ones referencing back to the previous. The point it drills home is that the reported cases we're aware of were not isolated incidents, but part of of an on-going institutional culture, that has just occasionally been made visible.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We never condone torture" - well, only a bit 12 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A shocking, shocking book that should be read by everyone especially British politicians. The author makes scrupulous and extensive use of his sources which must have taken months of painstaking work in the (UK) National Archive at Kew and elsewhere including interviews with victims, past torturers and gleaning every scrap of material from published work including memoirs from British Parachute Regiment personnel who at times refused to hand over prisoners to be tortured. From WWII though Palestine, Kenya, Northern Ireland up to Iraq we British tortured our enemies.

Apart from the necessary grisly detail this book is as much about how politicians have evaded and lied by using clever lawyerly phrases - "we never condone torture". But the British clearly exported our detainees to special "Interrogation Centres" where either the job was done for us and we sent the required questions, or MI5 or MI6 operatives stepped back into the room in between bouts of torture. In the face of statements by victims politicians set up "enquiries" when they knew all along what was happening because of their own involvement. The last Labour Government comes out particularly badly after the US famously "took the gloves off" after 9/11. Named cabinet rank politicians agreed rendition of British subjects to Guantanamo and in many cases authorised torture in Pakistan and Iraq as the secret services eventually required "cover" against being hung out to dry if the facts came out. Cameron came into power saying he would put a stop to it but is now processing new laws to enable court trials to be held in camera "in the national interest" to prevent details leaking out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Journalist Ian Cobain uses official documents and accounts of witnesses, victims and experts to expose the British state's repeated, systematic use of torture since World War Two. In Germany in 1945, this included the torture of Soviet citizens.

The Parker Commission's Report of 1972, set up in response to public outrage at the revelations of officially sanctioned torture in northern Ireland, confirmed its existence. Lord Gardiner's Minority Report called the interrogation procedures `secret, illegal, not morally justifiable'. The Report recalled the British Army's practice of torture in all its `counter-revolutionary operations' - in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, British Cameroons (1960-61), Brunei (1963), British Guyana (1964), Aden (1964-67), Borneo and Malaysia (1965-66) and the Persian Gulf (1970-71).

The British state routinely denies all allegations of torture and smears those making them. It claims that it does not collaborate with torturers. It funded Amnesty International in the belief that AI would focus on exposing torture in socialist countries.

Prime Minister Edward Heath told the House of Commons in March 1972 that the five standard torture techniques "will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation. The statement that I have made covers all future circumstances." That June, the Joint Intelligence Committee issued a Directive on Interrogation by the Armed Forces in Internal Security Operations, whose secret Part II allowed the techniques. Heath approved the Directive.

Since 1987, the CIA has kidnapped suspected terrorists, with no regard for lawful extradition procedures. In 1995 President Clinton authorised the practice of extraordinary rendition.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the most terrifying books I have read
It is simply one of the most terrifying books I have read, everything i had feared was true and worse. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Asghar Bukhari
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be in the school ciriculum
Ok, maybe that is a bit over the top, but it seems to me that not only are the majority of people in this country unaware of our involvement in foreign issues, they also seem to... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Morteus
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and Eye Openining
A very powerful book, it has forced me to change my perception of what it means to be British and I really don't like it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nicholas
4.0 out of 5 stars Important work by quality journo
... highlights over/underlooked area of state secrecy. (why do you need "9 more words", amazon, pray tell me pretty please)
Published 3 months ago by TFB
4.0 out of 5 stars What? Reviewed by Polly Harvey?!
Yes indeed - P.J. Harvey has endorsed this book! And, on a less luminous note, I am happy to do so too. Read more
Published 5 months ago by D. Parkin
5.0 out of 5 stars As a Brit I was shocked
You want to believe your government when they talk. But this book has brought home to me precisely how careful politicians are with their words when they talk after the fairly... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Stewart Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars A REVEALING INSIGHT INTO GOVERNMENT'S DECEPTION
This was a very revealing and eye opening book. It details a history of torture and other nefarious activities under the aegis of successive British governments. Read more
Published 6 months ago by bibliophile
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
I love the book as it is just a new book. And the delivery period was superb. So nice a book
Published 6 months ago by MUHAMMED ALIU BABATUNDE
5.0 out of 5 stars Knew a lot of it but it's well written.
I didn't really get much enlightenment from the book because I know the subject matter quite well, but it is well worth a read if you don't know anything about state sanctioned... Read more
Published 7 months ago by GDD
4.0 out of 5 stars Truth Hurts
Nobody could enjoy reading this book. It is a terrible commentary on the hypocrisy and pure cruelty which was, and to some extent still is, the establishment attitude. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Michael Horrex
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